Previous studies have localized a central pattern generator for mastication
to the midline pontomedullary reticular formation (RF) based on cortically
induced ororhythmic movements. The present study determined whether this s
ame substrate mediated licking responses evoked by more natural stimuli. Li
cking in the awake rat was initiated either through an appetitive response
to sucrose presented in a bottle or by intraoral (IO) infusions. Oral rejec
tion responses also were obtained by IO infusions of quinine hydrochloride.
Small volumes of the GABA(A) agonist muscimol bilaterally infused into the
lateral medullary RF significantly reduced licking and oral rejection resp
onses measured electromyographically from the anterior digastric and genioh
yoid muscles. Other than the decrement or absence of ororhythmic activity,
rats appeared normal and actively approached and probed the water bottle. T
he suppression was reversible and returned to baseline within 3 h. In contr
ast, midline infusions of muscimol did not affect licking or rejection resp
onses. We postulate that the lateral medullary RF is an essential final com
mon path for ingestive consummatory responses.